Anchorage voters first in the nation to reject bathroom bill
Voters in Alaska’s largest city are on track to becoming the first in the U.S. to defeat a so-called bathroom bill in a referendum that asked them to require people using public bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender at birth.
The initiative asked Anchorage’s voters to repeal an ordinance passed in 2015 that prevented discrimination based on sexual orientation and added a clause that would have prevented transgender people from using bathrooms and locker rooms corresponding to their gender identities.
Voting by mail and in person ended on April 3 and the repeal effort was losing 53%-47% as of Monday, with nearly 78,000 votes counted and only several hundred to be counted when tallying ends on Friday. Supporters of the referendum have conceded defeat and opponents are claiming victory.
Among those celebrating was Lillian Lennon, who was 14 when her parents sent her from Alaska to Utah for residential therapy, where conversion therapy was practiced and the transgender teen was placed in a boy’s dorm.
“I was forced to go by pronouns and a name I didn’t identify with, and was regularly harassed and bullied for who I was and simply not being able to be known as myself,” she said.
Lennon took the semester off from the University of Alaska Anchorage to campaign against the initiative, and said her parents spoke out against it.
“I wasn’t able to live my life fully, and I absolutely would not want anyone under any circumstances to have to go through what I had to go through,” Lennon said.
After the result’s final tally emerges and it is certified next week, Anchorage will hold the distinction of being the first U.S. voting jurisdiction to defeat such an effort in a stand-alone ballot measure, said Alex Morash, spokesman for the National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund.
The issue of transgender bathroom access moved into the national spotlight in 2015, after the Houston City Council adopted a nondiscrimination ordinance that included protections for transgender people using restrooms based on gender identity.
Opponents of the ordinance gathered enough signatures for a repeal referendum, then mounted a campaign using the slogan “No Men in Women’s Bathrooms.” By a margin of 61% to 39%, the anti-bias ordinance was repealed.
The Anchorage proposition was filed by Jim and Kim Minnery and their group, Alaska Family Action.
While conceding defeat, Jim Minnery said “we’re encouraged that 47% of the people in Anchorage didn’t buy into the $1-million infusion that the outside LGBT activist groups poured into the city.”
Groups opposed to his effort reported receiving about $826,000 in donations while Minnery’s campaign effort, Yes on 1 Protect Our Privacy, raised nearly $140,000.
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